Mayhem Film Festival: Day 2

PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

Mayhem Day 2 got off to an esoteric start with Crumbs, the first science fiction film made in Ethiopia no less. Directed by Miguel Llansa, Crumbs tells the story of Candy, who dreams his life away after the apocalypse, hoping to join the space ship that (apparently) rotates above his country and return to his home planet with Birdy, the love of his life. Crumbs has been compared to the work of Tarkovsky (and wouldn’t be out of place in the BFI’s forthcoming retrospective of films inspired by the Russian auteur) but nearer, perhaps, to the works of Werner Herzog. Crumbs contemplates the influence of Western culture on the African continent, which seemingly amounts, after the end of the world, to little more than a few surviving Michael Jackson discs, Mutant Ninja Turtle figures, and an endless loop of old Superman movies that sadly display the remnants of the long faded American Dream. Mesmerising and mystifying in equal measures, Crumbs is mercifully short enough at 68 minutes to warrant a second look in order to figure it all out. It’s certainly beautiful looking, though.

Nina Forever showcases the considerable talents of writer/director team Ben and Chris Blaine. When grief-stricken chemistry student Rob (Cian Berry) seeks solace in the arms of darkling Holly (Abigail Hardingham), his attempts to consummate the new relationship are continually interrupted by the bloody reappearance (in his bed) of ex-girlfriend (the titular Nina) (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) – killed in a motorbike crash – but now undead and jealous, and determined to get between them. Essentially a serious bereavement drama given a novel twist  Nina Forever comes on at times like Truly Madly Deeply as directed by Frank Henenlotter; although the ménage-a-trois scenario at the heart of it seems equally well suited to the kind of shock-comedy-sex-romp Bertrand Blier made in the 1970s (Les Valseuses, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs). It’s certainly original, if a bit uneven, with more than a whiff of necrophilia. Solid direction, superb cinematography (courtesy of Oliver Russell), and strong performances by Berry, Hardingham and O’Shaughnessy help to get you through Nina’s odd dry passage. So to speak.

Just when you thought you could live without another British werewolf movie, Paul Hyett’s Howl manages to wring some pretty decent suspense - and witty social comment -from its fairly makeshift premise. Werewolves attack a commuter train when it breaks down in the middle of nowhereville. It is left to the hapless guard, Joe (Ed Speleers), demeaned by a life in the service industry, to rise up against the lycanthropes, and lead his passengers to safety. Terrific special effects make for some actually quite scary man-beasts of the Rob Bottin variety. Director Hyett rather nicely develops the relationships between the diverse group of underdog (geddit?) commuters – as they realise they must pull together in order to survive the night. Only Elliot Cowen’s obnoxious banker-type, Adrian, threatens to spoil things with his ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. Shauna MacDonald plays a single mother/career woman who faces something worse than the glass ceiling. Plus Sean Pertwee makes a guest appearance.

There were more practical effects to come in the creature-feature, Stung, which concerns an infestation of mutant megawasps during an uppercrust dinner party in rural America. Jessica Cook is the caterer who spends as much time fighting off the advances of her co-worker Paul (Matt O’Leary) as she does the big bugs. Lance Henrikson makes a welcome appearance as the wine guzzling town mayor who is as oblivious to wasps as Murray Hamilton’s mayor in Jaws was to sharks. Indeed, Stung is something of a homage to the revenge of nature movies of the 1970s, and is entertaining enough, if a bit forgettable.

And so Day 2 of Mayhem came to an end somewhere around 12.45am on Saturday morning, and we all went our merry ways avoiding trains and motorcycles. And wasps!

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